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Moulin Rouge (1952 film)

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Title: Moulin Rouge (1952 film)  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: John Huston, Lee Montague, Ralph Kemplen, Marcel Vertès, Tutte Lemkow
Collection: 1950S Drama Films, 1950S Romantic Drama Films, 1952 Films, Biographical Films About Artists, British Films, British Romantic Drama Films, English-Language Films, Film Scores by Georges Auric, Films About Entertainers, Films Based on French Novels, Films Directed by John Huston, Films Set in the 1890S, Films Set in the Moulin Rouge, Films Shot in England, Films Shot in London, Films Shot in Paris, Films That Won the Best Costume Design Academy Award, Films Whose Art Director Won the Best Art Direction Academy Award, Screenplays by John Huston, United Artists Films
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Moulin Rouge (1952 film)

Moulin Rouge
French theatrical poster
Directed by John Huston
Produced by John and James Woolf
Written by John Huston
Anthony Veiller
Pierre La Mure (Novel)
Starring José Ferrer
Zsa Zsa Gabor
Suzanne Flon
Music by Georges Auric
William Engvick
Cinematography Oswald Morris
Edited by Ralph Kemplen
Distributed by United Artists (US)
British Lion Films (UK)
Release dates
  • December 23, 1952 (1952-12-23) (United States)
Running time
119 minutes
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Budget USD$1.5 million (approx. £967,785)
Box office $5 million (est. US/ Canada rentals)[1]

Moulin Rouge is a 1952 British drama film directed by John Huston, produced by John and James Woolf for their Romulus Films company and released by United Artists. The film is set in Paris in the late 19th century, following artist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec in the city's bohemian sub-culture in and around the burlesque palace, the Moulin Rouge. The screenplay is by Huston, based on the novel by Pierre La Mure. The cinematography was by Oswald Morris. This movie was screened at Venice Film Festival (1953) where it won the Silver Lion.

The film stars José Ferrer as Toulouse-Lautrec, with Zsa Zsa Gabor as Jane Avril, Suzanne Flon, Eric Pohlmann, Colette Marchand, Christopher Lee, Michael Balfour, Peter Cushing, Katherine Kath as La Goulue, Theodore Bikel, and Muriel Smith.


  • Plot 1
  • Cast 2
  • Memorable quote 3
  • Production 4
  • Reception 5
  • Awards and nominations 6
  • Digital restoration 7
  • References 8
  • External links 9


In 1890 Paris, as crowds pour into the Moulin Rouge nightclub, young artist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec finishes a bottle of cognac and sketches the dancers as they perform. The nightclub's regulars each stop by: singer Jane Avril teases Henri charmingly, dancers La Goulue and Aicha fight, and owner Maurice Joyant offers Henri free drinks for a month in exchange for painting a promotional poster. At closing time, Henri waits for the crowds to disperse before standing to reveal his four-foot six-inch body. As he walks to his Montmartre apartment, he recalls the events that led to his disfigurement. It is learned Lautrec falls down a flight of stairs, where his legs fail to heal due to a genetic weakness resulting from his parents being first cousins. His legs stunted and pained, Henri loses himself in his art, while his father leaves his mother, the countess, to ensure they have no more children. Henri is a bright, happy child, revered by his father, the Count de Toulouse-Lautrec. As a young adult he proposes to the woman he loves, but when she tells him no woman will ever love him, he leaves his childhood home in despair to begin a new life as a painter in Paris.

Back in the present, street walker Marie Charlet, begs Henri to rescue her from police sergeant Patou. Henri wards off the policeman by pretending to be her guardian, after which she insists on following him home. There, she addresses his small stature, and although he is at first angry, he allows her to stay out of his desperate loneliness and is charmed when she claims not to care about his legs. Within days, he is buying her gifts and singing as he paints, until Marie takes his money and stays out all night.

Henri waits in agony for her return, but when she finally does he tells her to leave at once. Realizing, he loves her, Marie vows to stay and love him back. Though, she continues to fight petulantly with him, he tells himself, her crassness stems from her poverty and lets her stay. During one fight Marie tells Henri he can never attract a real woman, and leaves. By morning, she begs him to take her back, but he refuses. He begins drinking and does not stop until his landlady calls his mother, who urges him to save his health by finding Marie.

Henri searches Marie's working-class neighborhood, finally discovering her at a café, where she drunkenly reveals she stayed with him only to procure money for her boyfriend. When she adds that his touch made her sick, Henri returns to his apartment, and turns on the gas vents. As he sits waiting to die, he is suddenly inspired to finish his Moulin Rouge poster, and, brush in hand, distractedly turns the vents off again.

The next day, Henri brings the poster to the dance hall, and though the style is unusual, Maurice accepts it. Henri works for days at the lithographers, blending his own inks to perfect the vivid colors. When he finishes the poster, which shows a woman dancing with her legs exposed, it becomes an instant sensation and the dance hall opens to high society. The count, however, denounces Henri for the "pornographic" work.

Over the next ten years, Henri records Parisian life in countless brilliant paintings. By 1900, he is famous but still terribly lonely. One day, he sees Myriamme Hyam standing at the edge of Pont Alexandre III over the Seine River. Thinking she may jump, he stops to talk to her. She spurns his advances and throws a key into the water. Days later, Jane, a friend of Myriamme's, arranges a meeting for them. Myriamme is a great admirer of Henri's paintings and the two begin to spend time together.

She eventually reveals to Henri that the key she threw in the water belonged to a married man, Marne de la Voisier, who asked her to be his mistress. While Henri continues to decry the possibility of true love he falls in love with Myriamme. One day, the two see La Goulue on the street drunkenly insisting she was once a star. Henri realizes the Moulin Rouge has become a respectable establishment and no longer the home for misfits.

Myriamme later informs Henri that Marne has asked her to marry him. Certain she loves the more handsome man he bitingly congratulates her for trapping Marne. Myriamme ask Henri if he loves her, but he believes she is only trying to spare his feelings and lies that he does not. By the time he receives a letter from her stating she loves him, but cannot wait any longer, Myriamme has left the city and Henri goes in search of her unsuccessfully. Weeks later while sitting in a dive drinking steadily Henri reads Myriamme's note over and over. Patou, now an inspector, is called to help him. Once home, Henri, in a state of delirium tremens, hallucinates that he sees cockroaches, and in trying to drive them away, accidentally falls down a flight of stairs.

Near death, he is brought to his family home. After the priest reads the last rites, the count tearfully informs Henri that he is to be the first living artist to be shown in the Louvre and begs for forgiveness. Henri turns his head and watches as phantasmal characters from his Moulin Rouge paintings, including Jane Avril, dance into the room to bid him goodbye.


Memorable quote

From José Ferrer as Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec:

"The wise woman patterns her life on the theory and practice of modern banking. She never gives her love, but only lends it on the best security and at the highest rate of interest."


In the film, Ferrer plays both Henri and his father, the Comte Alphonse de Toulouse-Lautrec. To transform Ferrer into Henri required the use of platforms and concealed pits as well as special camera angles, makeup and costumes. Short body doubles were also used. In addition, Ferrer used a set of knee-pads of his own design allowing him to walk on his knees with his lower legs strapped to his upper body. He received high praise not only for his performance, but for his willingness to have his legs strapped in such a manner simply to play a role.

It was reported that John Huston asked cinematographer Oswald Morris to render the color scheme of the film to look "as if Toulouse-Lautrec had directed it".[2] Moulin Rouge was shot in three-strip Technicolor. The Technicolor projection print is created by dye transfer from three primary-color gelatin matrices. This permits great flexibility in controlling the density, contrast, and saturation of the print. Huston asked Technicolor for a subdued palette, rather than the sometimes-gaudy colors "glorious Technicolor" was famous for. Technicolor was reportedly reluctant to do this.

The film was shot at Shepperton Studios, Shepperton, Surrey, England, and on location in London and Paris.


During its first year of release it earned £205,453 in UK cinemas[3] and $5 million at the North American box office.[4]

Ferrer received 40 percent of the proceeds from the film as well as other rights. This remuneration gave rise to a prominent Second Circuit tax case, Commissioner v. Ferrer (1962) in which Ferrer argued that he was taxed too much. [5]

Awards and nominations

Academy Awards

Moulin Rouge received seven Academy Award nominations and won two:[6]

The film was not nominated for its color cinematography, which many critics found remarkable. Leonard Maltin, in his annual Movie and Video Guide declared: "If you can't catch this in color, skip it."

BAFTA Awards

The film received three BAFTA Nominations for

  • Best British Film
  • Best Film from any Source
  • Most Promising Newcomer - Colette Marchand
Golden Globe Awards

The film won the Golden Globe Award for Most Promising Newcomer - Colette Marchand

In an interview shortly after his successful film version of Cabaret opened, Bob Fosse acknowledged Huston's filming of the can-can in Moulin Rouge as being very influential on his own film style.

Other awards
  • Silver Lion at the Venice Film Festival - John Huston
  • British Society of Cinematographers - Oswald Morris

The Moulin Rouge theme song became quite well known making it to the charts.

Digital restoration

The film was digitally restored by FotoKem for Blu-ray debut. Frame-by-frame digital restoration was done by Prasad Corporation removed dirt, tears, scratches and other defects. [7][8]


  1. ^ "All Time Domestic Champs", Variety, 6 January 1960 p 34
  2. ^ Tom Vallance, "Obituary: Sir John Woolf", The Independent, 1 July 1999
  3. ^ Vincent Porter, 'The Robert Clark Account', Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television, Vol 20 No 4, 2000 p.499
  4. ^ 'The Top Box Office Hits of 1953', Variety, January 13, 1954
  5. ^ See 304 F. 2d 125 - Commissioner of Internal Revenue v. Ferrer , OpenJurist
  6. ^ "NY Times: Moulin Rouge". NY Times. Retrieved 2008-12-21. 
  7. ^ Prasad Corporation, Digital Film Restoration
  8. ^ "FotoKem - Home". 

External links

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